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State senator: public hearing on science standards violated open-meetings law

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A state senator who said he was prevented from attending a public hearing on proposed science standards has filed a complaint with the attorney general’s office alleging that the New Mexico Public Education Department didn’t comply with the state open-meetings act.

Sen. William Soules, D.-Las Cruces, is asking New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas to prevent PED from adopting the proposed science standards until it holds “a public hearing where all persons so desiring are permitted to attend and listen,” the complaint said.

Soules said he attempted to attend the hearing at about 11 a.m. Monday at the Jerry Apodaca Educaton Building in Santa Fe but was prohibited from entering the building.

“I arrived about 11:00 a.m. hoping to watch some of the public testimony about the new standards and was met by a crowd of 50 to 100 people outside the building waiting to go in to testify with police keeping others from entering because the capacity of the room was exceeded,” Soules wrote in the complaint.

“There was no accommodation for those outside to watch, hear or participate in the hearing of the public body, PED, on the proposed rules being made about the new science standards,” he wrote.

PED scheduled the public hearing to receive public comments to teaching standards posted on the PED’s website last month.

PED’s proposed standards were based on the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, published in 2013 by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences. But the PED’s proposal contains changes to the NGSS. The standards as written have been adopted by 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Hundreds of scientists, educators and faith leaders jammed an auditorium to object to the proposed standards and demand that PED adopt the NGSS as written. Some 170 fit in the room, of whom about 70 had to stand. Others stood in the lobby and still others were barred from entering the building by private security officers.

PED announced some revisions to its proposed standards late Tuesday that address some of the concerns raised by critics, including restoring the 4.6-billion-year-old age of the Earth and a reference to evolution. The revisions appear to leave in place most of PED’s proposed changes to the Next Generation Science Standards, which the agency announced last month.

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